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48                                       VERDICT OX INDIA
them and asked if I would like to make their acquaintance. 'They
aren't going to be hanged,5 she said, cso you needn't feel too badly
about them/ I was wheeled into their ward the next morning.
There they lay, with chains on their arms and legs, chatting to the
guards who stood over them with fixed bayonets. They were all
young men, and they were all 'good-looking' in both senses of the
phrase; they had fine features and through those features there
seemed to shine a fine spirit. And they were all there for honour
or for love.
One had an uncle who had stolen from his friend while he was
sheltering under his roof. What could one do with such a person
but kill him ? Another had a wife who had submitted to the
embraces of a Hindu bird-fancier. How could such a snarer of
doves be permitted to draw breath ? The crimes of the other two
were both crimes of sex perversion, though in these parts homo-
sexual love is so prevalent that to describe it as perverse is almost
pedantic. 'Whenever we have a murder in our regiment,' said a
hard-bitten old colonel to me, 'we always begin by looking for
the boy.' It is the Pathan version of cherchez lafemme.
And by the side of the faces of those four passionate youths I
seemed to see other faces which had smiled or frowned or wept
in those wards, and though there were some who were sick
through no fault of their own, there were more who had been
carried in riddled with bullets or slashed with knives—boys of
nine who had grown old and scarred in blood feuds, striplings of
twelve whose only means of answering a taunt was with the flash
of a knife.
Stop it ? You might as well try to stop the Indus from flowing
to the sea. The best you can do is to keep these fierce human
torrents within reasonable bounds.
And so it goes on, a never-ending struggle. 'Year in, year out,
picquets must be set, patrols must be on the move, armed to the
teeth.. .scouts and militia, frontier constabulary and levies,,
malik) khassadar, and badrqgga.*1
* North* West Frontier, by J. M. Ewart (London Book Company, Peshawar),